Supreme Court to hear constitutional challenge to same-sex marriage ban
by Eric Jackson
Polls would suggest that most Panamanians don’t want to hear it, but the Supreme Court has agreed that it will. In October Panamanian lawyer Enrique Jelenszky and British businessman John Winstanley, represented by the expensive law firm Morgan & Morgan, challenged the constitutionality of Article 26 of Panama’s Family Code, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. Panama’s constitution states some lofty principles that tend to get defined into meaninglessness. Arguably the challenged part of our family law violates Article 19 of the Constitution because it entails prohibited privileges, immunities and discrimination on grounds of sex and social class; or violates Article 26 guarantees of the inviolability of the home. But Article 35 of the Constitution, while providing for religious freedom, also demands “respect for Christian morals” and acknowledges Catholicism as the majority religion.
Jelenszky and Winstanly have lived together for 17 years and about eight years ago they registered a civil union under British law at the UK Embassy here. Since then the United Kingdom has provided that such unions are or can be marriages. In September they tried to record their marriage in the Panamanian Registro Civil, were turned away, and then filed their legal challenge.
The Alianza Evangelica de Panama accuses the couple of intending to destroy Panamanian families and says that they will be holding protests. The Asociacion de Hombres y Mujeres Nuevos de Panama (AMNP), the nation’s main organization that advocates for the civil rights of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered persons, is rallying behind Jelenszky and Winstanley. “We will fight until everyone is equal before the law,” AHMNP leader Ricardo Beteta Bond declared on his Facebook page.
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